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A confirmation flurry in the Senate


Nothing like the heady scent of jet fuel to make a senator’s thoughts turn to confirmations.

The Senate will take off for its August break at the end of this week, but not before voting on a slew of White House nominees.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

The chamber on Monday approved the nomination of James Comey to be the director of the FBI, and on Tuesday it gave nods to all five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board — Harry Johnson, Philip Miscimarra, Mark Pearce, Kent Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer — whose approval was part of the deal negotiated by Republicans and Democrats to head off the “nuclear option.”

But wait! Those suddenly energized senators aren’t done moving nominees yet. The chamber is also expected to take up the nomination of Samantha Power to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

And though the nuclear crisis appears averted, things still might get a little testy when Senate leaders call a vote (expected Wednesday or Thursday) on B. Todd Jones, President Obama’s pick to be the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in seven years.

Jones, the part-time acting director who is also the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, has faced heavy criticism from Republican senators, particularly Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa). Grassley has raised questions about Jones’s handling of cases in Minnesota and his treatment of whistleblowers.

Making the nomination even more controversial is the lingering debate over “Fast and Furious,” the botched effort to track guns to drug traffickers. Jones wasn’t at ATF during that operation, but it cast a shadow over his confirmation hearings.

It isn’t clear whether his critics will have the votes to block his nomination, and his backers remain optimistic that he’ll be approved. But one Democratic aide called his prospects “iffy.”

The Senate could also approve any number of noncontroversial nominees, but the action this week is likely to leave a number of them awaiting votes after the month-long break.

Some of the folks still in the queue include Dan Baer to be the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Catherine Russell to be ambassador at large for global women’s issues, and Jason Furman to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. (We hear that Mel Watt, Obama’s pick for director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, is likely to see a vote when the chamber reconvenes.)

As the song goes, see you in September.

An environment of loyalty

Bob Perciasepe is no sore loser.

Some observers figured that, as the deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, he might have been in line to get the job heading the agency when it came open this year (though it didn’t help him that, as a white guy, he wouldn’t add any diversity to the Cabinet). He got passed over, but he’s obviously not letting that bug him.

Gina McCarthy — who did get the job — reports that he’s sticking around.

She tells our colleague Juliet Eilperin that she couldn’t be happier that Perciasepe is staying put at the agency, where he’ll continue on as her No. 2. “Thank God,” she added. “I tell him he’s one of my most precious resources that I have to protect.”

Perciasepe served as the acting director during McCarthy’s confirmation process.

McCarthy, who was approved by the Senate last month, also gave her deputy a shout-out during a speech Tuesday at Harvard University in which she outlined the EPA’s agenda.

Return to Washington?

Sarah Feinberg, the former White House staffer who’s now the director of policy communications for Facebook, is said to be a top candidate to be chief of staff to the new transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx .

We hear that Feinberg is under consideration for the job, though no official offer has been made. Neither Feinberg nor a Transportation Department spokeswoman would comment.

It’s not a done deal yet — other candidates, including an internal one, might be in the mix, too.

Though the transportation portfolio would be new to her, it’s thought that Feinberg, whose career as a Democratic aide included stints working for former congressman and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, could help Washington newbie Foxx navigate Beltway waters.

Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte, has few close Washington connections and isn’t expected to bring a cadre of staffers with him to the job, unlike some Cabinet secretaries (think Secretary of State John Kerry, who moved a number of his former Senate aides over to Foggy Bottom).

Several agency watchers predict general stability in the DOT ranks under the new management.

After heading communications for the House Democratic Caucus and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee while Emanuel was its director, Feinberg followed her boss to the White House, where she was his senior adviser and a special assistant to the president.

She has since held private-sector jobs at Bloomberg and Facebook. Feinberg is married to top Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer , though the two separated in 2011 when she moved to California to take the Facebook job.

The DOT job isn’t a Senate-confirmable position, so there’s no hurdle there. Maybe she’ll have a second act in the Obama administration.

The Joe-and-Hillary show

First Hillary Clinton is lunching with the president, then grabbing breakfast with the veep. Soon she may be . . . co-hosting a morning show with Vice President Biden?

That’s Biden’s idea, anyway.

After NBC “Today” host Al Roker said on-air that he’d watch a reality TV show about Biden “in a minute” and suggested that the vice president might like to fill in as a host of the show, Biden replied via Twitter: “Keep the door open @alroker. Who knows, maybe @HillaryClinton and I can co-host. --VP.”

With Emily Heil

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